Doug Aitken’s Got It All Boxed Up

Published April 24, 2012

To open the Sleepwalkers box is to be overwhelmed—and that’s sort of the point. It’s been nearly five years since artist Doug Aitken’s critically acclaimed public film installation by the same name on the façade of the Museum of Modern Art, featuring the likes of Cat Power, Seu Jorge, Tilda Swinton, and Donald Sutherland and described by Times art critic Roberta Smith as “an outstanding example of what might be called archivideo or videotecture . . . [that] dovetails seamlessly with its rarefied setting.” Now, Aitken has teamed up with Princeton Architectural Press and DFA Records to present a “remix” of the project—a box, as elegantly packaged as an Apple product, whose components amount to a full sensory experience.

Among the treasures inside: a 23-by-36-inch, double-sided poster; a 12-inch vinyl picture disc with unreleased tracks by Broadcast, as well as a live recording of Aitken’s opera “the handle comes up, the hammer comes down;” a CD of the same, plus further tracks by acts including Canyon Country and Bibio; two flipbooks with sequences excerpted from the film; a DVD with a special-edition cut of Sleepwalkers and a street-level walkthrough; and, most enlightening of all, a 96-page visual diary, “Fragments, Markings and Images from the Making of Sleepwalkers,” which tells the story of the installation’s conception from the inside out.

“Really, the pivotal moment for me was deciding to address the city itself instead of creating an exhibition that remains the same and simply travels,” Aitken explains in a conversation with Jacques Herzog included in the diary. “Like an archaeologist mining images, I wanted to try to dig under the surface of the city’s outward image and expose the raw nerves that make this metropolis live and breathe.” With the Sleepwalkers box, somnambulism is exciting all over again.

FOR MORE ON THE SLEEPWALKERS BOX, AND TO ORDER A SIGNED, NUMBERED COPY FROM THE LIMITED EDITION OF 1000, VISIT THE PROJECT’S WEBSITE. DOUG AITKEN WILL NEXT PRESENT A “HAPPENING” IN CONJUNCTION WITH HIS SONG-1 PROJECT AT THE HIRSHHORN MUSEUM IN WASHINGTON, D.C.; TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE HERE.